Adams wins historic vote from Sinn Fein to back Irish police forces

Irish republicans have voted overwhelmingly to support the policing systems in both parts of Ireland, in a move which was hailed as a historic change of heart and a key moment in the peace process.

A special meeting of Sinn Fein in Dublin yesterday overwhelmingly endorsed the recommendation of the president Gerry Adams and other party leaders to support in particular the police and justice system in Northern Ireland.

With Sinn Fein and Tony Blair both anxious to get a new devolved Belfast administration up and running as soon as possible, attention will now switch to Sinn Fein's potential partners in government, the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist party.

The next two months are expected to see a flurry of activity in the slow-moving peace process with an election expected to forge a new powersharing coalition by late March.

Yesterday's convincing Sinn Fein vote came after a lengthy debate in which critics of the police were clearly outnumbered by those loyal to the Adams' line that the time had come for a radical departure from tradition.

Afterwards Mr Adams told delegates: "You have created the opportunity to significantly advance our struggle and to further our primary objective of a united ireland. Today you have created the potential to change the political landscape on this island forever."

In the run-up to yesterday's debate Sinn Fein held a dozen public meetings as well as hundreds of private events to thrash out the merits of the issue. Some in the grassroots were clearly emotionally opposed to the move, while several mid-ranking political representatives will not be standing for election again.

But the vote was overwhelming as those with doubts put their misgivings aside and went along with the leadership, which argued that a deal on policing was necessary for "the strategic advancement of the republican struggle."

In London, Tony Blair's spokesman said he welcomed what he described as the historic decision, adding that he, "recognised the leadership it has taken to get to this point".

Mr Paisley's reaction is now keenly awaited as Downing Street prepares to make the call on holding an election. While all the signs are that the DUP leader wants to go ahead, there are signs of dissension. It remains to be seen whether Mr Paisley will meet this head on and face down his internal critics. As Sinn Fein has just done, he may well need to undertake a marketing operation to argue that he should contemplate a coalition with republicans.

Peace process timetable

* 30 JANUARY: Sinn Fein executive will meet to consider the practicalities of the party's decision to support policing in Northern Ireland.

* FEBRUARY: The Government will push Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist party to react by agreeing to enter a powersharing government with Sinn Fein. The Government will then decide whether to proceed with assembly elections

* 7 MARCH: Election date. The prediction is that the two largest parties will be the DUP and Sinn Fein, which means they will be entitled to the posts of First Minister and Deputy First Minister. The nominees for these are expected to be Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

* 26 MARCH: Assembly to be convened in the hope that the DUP and Sinn Fein will agree to go into government together.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before